Book List

Indie Best Books of the Month May

A fun and silly addition to titles about mechanics, helping others, and animal adventures.

HANDY HOWIE

A debut picture book from author/illustrator Howe about a bright blue lobster that would give Wreck-It Ralph’s Fix-It Felix Jr. a run for his money.

Handy Howie is a lobster mechanic who affixes tools to his tail in order to fix the cars of other animals in the area. His first job of the day comes when Grandma Pig Laura’s vehicle springs an oil leak; Howie fixes it, and she pays him in muffins. Later, two turkey construction workers have trouble with their dump truck when the back of it comes loose, an artist iguana has a flat tire, and vacationing Mr. Deer’s headlight goes out. Howie fixes everything in time to snuggle with his lobster children at bedtime. Howe’s rhymes are packed with humor, and the book should have lap readers and newly independent readers alike giggling about the crustacean mechanic’s antics. The author doesn’t seem to have rules about which of her fictional animals wear clothing, as some are fully dressed, and Howie only wears eight yellow boots—but the kid-friendly cartoon style will likely keep young readers from questioning this stylistic choice. They may also appreciate the realistic drawings of Howie’s tools and how his tail looks like it’s on fire when he’s welding.

A fun and silly addition to titles about mechanics, helping others, and animal adventures.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-388-08065-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Blurb

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

A wonderfully written crime tale that favorably compares to the work of Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, and Elmore...

FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER

From the Claire Fletcher and Detective Parks Mystery series , Vol. 1

Suspense novelist Regan (Aberration, 2013, etc.) tells the story of a woman victimized by a twisted kidnapper and sexual predator.

At the book’s outset, readers find out that Claire Fletcher was kidnapped on her way to school 10 years ago, when she was 15. In the very next chapter, set in the present, 25-year-old Claire is in a bar, where she seduces off-duty Detective Connor Parks of the Sacramento Police Department, whose own personal and professional life is in shambles. They have a tryst at his apartment, but she quickly leaves so that she can return to her kidnapper before he realizes that she’s missing; she leaves Connor with her family’s address, trying to let them know that she’s still alive. When he finds out about Claire’s true situation, he becomes determined to find her. He gets help from his buddies on the force and from private investigator Mitch Farrell, an old family friend of the Fletchers. Claire was abducted by a twisted man with a dark past. For years, he’s been tying Claire up and brutalizing her—all the while declaring his love for her and telling her that she will come to love him. Eventually, though, she’s allowed a very small amount of freedom—which she uses to her advantage. Her kidnapper is assisted by a young woman named Tiffany, a runaway who sees Claire as a rival. The story effectively toggles between first-person narration (from Claire’s point of view, in captivity) and a third-person perspective, which usually focuses on Connor. Regan’s pacing is a marvel—one moment, she’s lingering on the grotesque, brutal treatment of Claire, and the next, she shifts gears to show Connor’s frantic pursuit of the kidnapper. The latter is truly a monster, and his portrayal will disturb readers’ sleep. Claire, meanwhile, is believably shown to be gutsy and resourceful under conditions that would crush even the toughest people. Tiffany’s minor role becomes a star performance, mixing evil with apparent innocence.

A wonderfully written crime tale that favorably compares to the work of Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, and Elmore Leonard.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4610-7

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

Another satisfying installment of a romance series with a lot of heart and plenty of heat.

ONLY WITH YOU

From the Connor Family series , Vol. 4

An intelligent and shrewd lawyer sets his sights on a sexy and successful businesswoman.

In this fourth installment of a series, Carter Sloane has reached a major milestone in his impressive career, moving his firm, Sloane & Partners, to a prominent new office building. He enjoys the trappings of his success, including a black Porsche and positive press coverage in Forbes magazine, but his heart belongs to his nieces, April and Peyton. Their guardian since the tragic deaths of their parents in an avalanche, Carter is committed to giving them a stable home life. He is not looking for love until he meets Valentina Connor at a popular coffee shop. She runs Valentina’s Laboratories, a cosmetics and fragrances company across the street from Carter’s office. Although Valentina is wary of falling for the wrong man, she is intrigued by the sexy and self-confident Carter. What begins as a playful flirtation soon turns into a passionate romance. Carter falls in love with Valentina, especially after she bonds with his nieces, but when her company is sued by a competitor, the couple wonder if their relationship can withstand the pressures of an instant family and two high-profile careers. The latest entry in Hagen’s (Meant for You, 2018, etc.) Connor Family contemporary romance series delivers a sweet and charming love story bolstered by winsome characters, fast-paced storytelling, and a healthy dose of sexual chemistry between the protagonists. Valentina and Carter are appealing lead characters whose relationship is built on a strong mutual attraction and similar family backgrounds. They narrate the story through chapters that alternate between their first-person perspectives. This technique allows the author to explore their joy over their strong connection and their need to offer Carter’s nieces a stable home. Although Valentina and Carter’s steamy romance drives the story, their love of family lies at the heart of the narrative, from his devotion to his nieces to her weekly dinners with her large extended clan. Like the other volumes in the series, this book can be enjoyed on its own, although family members from the previous novels are part of the supporting cast of characters.

Another satisfying installment of a romance series with a lot of heart and plenty of heat.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79501-533-2

Page Count: 311

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

A rewarding read-aloud with enjoyable question-and-answer rhythms and bubbly, festive animal illustrations.

HOO HOO WHO?

In this debut picture book, young readers are asked to assist an owl host with a thorny problem.

Owl is giving a surprise birthday party for Mouse, and readers are invited. But, oh no—his glasses are broken, and he needs the audience to help him identify guests at the door. First, Owl hears a reveler coming: “Splish…Splash…Flap…Flap,” for example, or “Hiss…Hiss…Slither…Slide.” Then Owl provides some rhyming clues based on noted characteristics: “Who has yellow feathers? / Who has splashy feet? / Who says QUACK QUACK / with their smiling little beak?” or “Who has a scaly diamond back? / Who looks like the letter S? / Who says Hisssss / …and is the LONGEST of our guests?” The answers are rewarded with Owl’s enthusiastic responses: “Exactamundo!” “DING! DING! DING! Correct!” As each partygoer arrives, the animal’s special sound is added to a list, from “Hoo hoo!” to “Squeak squeak!” for the guest of honor. Not only that, Owl gets a new pair of glasses. With all the sound effects, repeated hoo’s and who’s, the final shout of “SURPRISE!” when Mouse arrives, and the overall guessing game, Maier and Horton’s tale makes for a fun read-along experience for adults and children. The attractive, scribbly pen-and-ink plus watercolor illustrations are a nice change from the usual primary colors. Dominated by pale blue, orange, peach, and gray, they are dynamic with repeated circle shapes.

A rewarding read-aloud with enjoyable question-and-answer rhythms and bubbly, festive animal illustrations.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944201-14-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Building Block Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.

ROOT CAUSE

In this novel, a winemaker attempts to stop a strange pest from destroying the world’s grapevines.

Corvina Guerra would love to settle down in one place to be a proper winemaker at a well-run vineyard. Instead, she works as a flying winemaker (a consultant) for Universal Wines, a massive distributor that collaborates with vineyards across the globe. While back in her native Italy helping out a struggling friend of her father’s, she discovers something troubling in the soil beneath his grapevines: “She could see small areas of dead tissue along the vine. The tiny bug attacked the vine by biting at the roots. Its saliva caused uncontrolled cell growth creating knots where bacteria could enter the plant, travel up and kill the rest of the vine.” The culprit is phylloxera, an American species of louse with the potential to destroy the entire wine crop of Europe. Universal Wines makes Corvina the point person on the phylloxera—or “Philomena,” as the media dub it—problem. With the help of Bryan Lawless, a handsome but opinionated master of wine, and Malcolm Goldberg, a curious reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, Corvina sets out to discover the reasons behind the sudden reappearance of the pest as well as the potential neurotoxin that could eradicate it. It turns out that the Philomena strand of phylloxera has been genetically engineered to be even deadlier to grapevines. But who would do such a thing? And how far are they willing to go to make sure the scheme stays covered up? Laine’s (Iconoclast, 2012, etc.) prose is sharp and exact. His characters’ dialogue captures the minutiae of wine culture while keeping the plot moving at a speedy clip: “The bartender with the eyebrow piercing is underpouring each glass of wine, stretching each bottle to six glasses instead of five,” the observant Lawless tells one baffled restaurateur. “I’ve been watching her three straight shifts.” The milieu is intriguing and the mystery is a lot of fun, even if its direction is a tad predictable. The author has crafted a medium-stakes tale perfect for an escapist read.

An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68442-260-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2018

Delivering suspenseful storytelling, colorful and believable characters, and a deeply moving tribute to canine loyalty, this...

LAKE ISLE

A small city dog, lost in the rugged backcountry of Vermont, relates his eventful struggle to find his way home.

In the same league as Ann M. Martin’s touching novel A Dog’s Life, this beautifully observant story, told from the point of view of a bighearted Chihuahua, will stay with canine-loving readers long after the tale is finished. A sequel to the New York–based Little Deer’s (Little Tramp, 2014) first book—both inspired by his real-life dog companion—the YA novel begins when the Chihuahua is uprooted from his contented life in a New York City apartment. The dog, named Tobi, travels with his beloved human, Ted, to northern Vermont for a summer on the family farm. Tobi is confused and bereft when one day Ted is gone, unaware that he will be traveling and can’t take the canine along. Ted’s gruff dad doesn’t help, banning Tobi from the house and forcing him to share farm dog Rex’s quarters. A tragic loss and other incidents periodically bring Ted back, but he always leaves Tobi behind when he departs again. The pooch suffers but gradually adjusts, finding comfort with gentle Rex and Ted’s grandmother until, caught up in the thrill of a dog pack’s wild deer hunt, he is lost in the woods. Danger, refuge, companionship, and a hint of uncanny mystery follow as Tobi encounters memorable animals and people during his monthslong ordeal. Tobi’s internal dialogue (he doesn’t speak with other animals) has a compelling authenticity, encompassing eloquent ponderings about the bond between humans and dogs, canine devotion, and forgiveness—and the awakening of his own ancestral memory. Driven to join in the howls of a pack of Native American sled dogs one night, he observes: “I was carried into timeless moonlit wilderness, and I, too, became a wild thing.” The novel’s rural, woodsy, and lakeside setting, described from Tobi’s perspective, is vividly detailed in sights, sounds, and smells. Little Deer (a pen name) seamlessly connects the intersecting stories of all his well-drawn characters, both human and animal, with a poignant thread—keep the tissues handy. 

Delivering suspenseful storytelling, colorful and believable characters, and a deeply moving tribute to canine loyalty, this tale should resonate with dog lovers of any age.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949596-00-7

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Tobi Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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